A dad who said he avoided playing with his children when he was nearly 26 stone has revealed how he dropped four stone by ditching his 1 0-year calorie counting habit.
James Jenkins, an East London dad-of-two, said he has given his kids a ‘new version of their dad’ since he stopped his old yo-yo dieting in order to try something completely new.
The teacher said he knew he needed to lose weight when, at 25-and-a-half stone, he realised he was getting out of breath just kicking around a football with his two young children.
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James said he even felt “uncomfortable” playing on the floor with Dylan, eight, and Owen, four, because of his size.
But after four failed attempts at restrictive, calorie-counting diets over the past 10 years, which always resulted in him piling on more pounds when he returned to his old eating habits, James said he felt a “horrible hopelessness”.
The teacher said he was living an unhealthy lifestyle, drinking “too much beer”, snoring throughout the night, feeling lethargic all the time, and waking up with a hangover every weekend.
James said he thought the only way to lose weight was by counting calories.
So when his wife Jo, 36, suggested he try Second Nature – an NHS-backed low-carb healthy eating programme on which no food is banned and cream, butter, nuts, chocolate and full-fat items are allowed – he admitted he was sceptical.
James said within three months he lost more than four stone while eating “genuinely nice food” and without counting a single calorie, dropping down to 20st 2lbs.
James said: “My weight really ballooned at secondary school. I grew to 5ft 11ins, but went up and outwards at the same time.
“In 2011, aged 26, I weighed 20 stone, so I decided to count calories. I have an obsessive all-or-nothing nature, so it suited me at the time.
“I would log everything on an app, restricting myself to 2,000 calories in the beginning, then down to 1,500 over about a six-month period.”
James said he would skip breakfast, have a small sandwich for lunch, then eat spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, and only eat a small meal on nights he was going out drinking to limit his calorie intake.
However, when his weight dropped to 15 stone, he felt “happy” and, lulled into a false sense of security, started eating “normally” again.
James said when he wasn’t calorie-counting he would eat a cooked breakfast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch, and pizza and chips for dinner, plus around six bags of crisps and five cans of Diet Coke.
Within about a year to 18 months, the weight had piled back on – and James found it was the same story every time he tried dieting again over the next 10 years, “calorie counting, losing a couple of stone, and then putting on all the weight I’d lost and more.”
By September 2021, with four failed attempts at calorie-counting diets behind him, James weighed his heaviest at 25st 7lbs, wearing XXXL clothes on top with a 44-inch waist.
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James said when Covid lockdown restrictions were lifted in 2020, he felt uncomfortable to socialise because of his size, and even at home he felt embarrassed to play with his kids because of his size.
“At 25.5 stone, everything was uncomfortable,” said James. “Sitting on the floor and playing with my children wasn’t pleasant so I would avoid doing it or half-heartedly show interest, because I was embarrassed.”
He went on: “Going to play football, not even taking many steps and being really out of breath was just horrible.
“I didn’t want to confront myself about my weight, I made a lot of excuses.
“Because I knew if I went back to calorie counting, I would feel exhausted, obsessing over everything I ate, and knowing that even if I lost weight, I would start putting it on again after I stopped.”
When James’ wife discovered Second Nature, he admits he was sceptical at first, as he believed carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta were what “filled you up”.
But after signing up to the programme in September 2021, James said he noticed a difference in just days.
As well as diet, the nutritional science-based programme focuses on behaviour change techniques, including looking at thought patterns, sleep, exercise, and stress levels, to help users lose weight.
All users are sent a recipe book, and have access to a dedicated qualified nutritionist or dietitian health coach on the app.
“After just three days I thought ‘wow I feel full up on what I’m eating’,” said James.
He added: “It felt as though I wasn’t on a diet, it just feels like I’m eating normally and I know it’s cheesy to say but it’s like the eating habits were becoming second nature.”
James described the recipes as “genuinely really nice food,” and added: “It doesn’t feel like I’m being restricted. It just feels like I’m gaining lots of food, new tastes and recipes.
“Cream, butter, and olive oil have all been off limits before with cc, but they make the food taste so nice.
“And while calorie counting in the past, I wouldn’t have snacked on nuts, but I can now.”
The overjoyed dad added: “In just three months I’ve lost more than four stone in weight.
“I no longer get heartburn, I’ve stopped snoring, much to the pleasure of my wife, who has also lost more than a stone and a half just through eating the recipes with me.”
James has also quit drinking for now, and said he’s sleeping much better.
“The best part is that my kids have a new version of their dad,” he said, adding: “I no longer wake up with a hangover at the weekend, so we spend more time together, and I now walk them to their swimming class.
“My losing weight has had such a positive effect on my relationship with them.”
“They’ve got a new version of their dad that they’ve never really seen before. My four year old who isn’t good at filtering himself has said ‘daddy, your tummy isn’t as fat as it was’.
“And my older son is now interested in what foods are healthy.”
Now James eats Greek yoghurt with hazelnuts and fresh fruit for breakfast, homemade coconut dahl batched for lunch, and chorizo and butter bean stew for dinner.
James said his life has been transformed since starting the new diet, from always feeling guilty if he ate the ‘wrong’ thing while calorie counting, to focusing on healthy food and meal-planning.
He added: “I will 100% never go back to calorie counting.”
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